Jan 09, 2018
That's Our Jam
In the realm of start-up stories, there are few businesses that can lay claim to a more interesting brand heritage than Jams World.
The company's founder, Dave Rochlen, led a life that rivaled anything that Hollywood could have dreamed up for the silver screen. Following his service in the Second World War as a marine, the Southern California surfer appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in a story about California beach culture, dated Marilyn Monroe, and then appeared on the cover of Life Magazine (again) for his work as a stuntman in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and then worked for the Rand Corporation doing work for the government in the early 1960s. After being transferred to Hawai'i for work, Rochlen found himself more enamored with the beach, lifestyle, waves, and adventure than his desk job. It was also here in the islands that he fell in love with a local girl, Keanuenue Ka'eo, and had a business idea that would change surf culture forever.
In the early 1960s in Honolulu, surfing wasn't the commercialized sport that we're privy to today, and finding a consistent surf shop that offered boards and gear was by no means easy. In 1963, seeing a void in the market, Dave opened Surf Line Hawaii, one of the first legitimate surf shops, and helped lay the foundation for the modern surf industry.
"In 1963, my grandfather Dave opened Surf Line Hawaii in Honolulu. It was the place to get surfboards back in the day," says Jenna Rochlen, Dave's granddaughter. "Then one day he read a story about Russian tourists swimming in pajamas. He saw a niche and created surf shorts, or Jams, named after the pajamas the Russians wore in the ocean. My grandma sewed them all. Since then, the brand has become a staple in the islands and world wide, manufacturing all of their colorful iconic prints and manufacturing them all right here in the city."
Fast-forward a few decades and Jams World has become an international label, bringing their bright, bold, and iconic prints to audiences worldwide. Dave's son, Pua and his wife Heather, eventually took the the helm of the company and ushered it into present day, all the while keeping their commitment to manufacture their clothing right here in Honolulu and employing a battalion of local seamstresses and factory workers.
Today, Jams continues their tradition of manufacturing their merchandise in Hawai'i and are looking toward the future with an optimistic eye. Jams has always been a family-run business, and Jenna Rochlen, the aforementioned granddaughter, is enthusiastic about taking the brand into the future. "We really do have an amazing story and I feel so fortunate to have grown up around the business. I'm really excited to see how the brand continues to evolve, all the while staying true to the roots and vision that my grandfather set up more than five decades ago."
Recently, Jenna helped spearhead Jams' latest lookbook, adding her vision and sense of style to the brand's aesthetic. The results offered the classic Jams vibes but blended them into modernity. They've also launched a series of new dresses with updated, modern silhouettes, that have captured the attention of local fashion gurus, breathing new excitement into the brand.
As Jams continues to evolve, it remains a shining example of how a local business can retain an international audience without having to leave the islands and move production overseas. As a family run operation, it's heartwarming to see Dave's vision continue to thrive, with each generation taking the reins and tailor the brand's deep-seated history into modernity.
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